Ethiopia Invests in Farmers to Achieve Country’s Middle-income Ambitions
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Fields of red sorghum in terraced fields that stretch into the distance are a common sight in the scenic mountains of eastern Ethiopia, giving a misleading impression of bountiful harvests despite this year’s drought in the east Africa.
Farmers tie five or more tall sorghum stalks together so they support one another, and the red seeds at the top of the plant grow heavier as the plants ripen, giving them a triffid-like appearance. A common plant and an important staple crop for millions of poor Ethiopians, sorghum is ubiquitous in the region around Dire Dawa, 352km north-east of Addis Ababa, the capital.
Apple orchards are a more surprising presence. Dadi Yadete, a bearded 72-year-old, took a gamble three years ago and started growing apples, a fruit that he didn’t know. Hesitant and doubtful initially, he planted 12 trees, but the experiment has paid off. Located 2,300 metres above sea level, these Ethiopian highlands enjoy a temperate climate, almost alpine, where apples can thrive.
Yadete, who has two wives and nine children, now has 70 flourishing apple trees on his small plot of land – about 0.5 hectares – where he also has a large avocado tree. He also grows barley, a few coffee bushes, sweet potato, green pepper and bright red hot chillies.
“Life was very difficult when I was trying to grow maize and barley,” said Yadete. “I was producing nothing and I was receiving food aid, now I don’t need food aid.” He gets about $600 a year from the sale of his apples, and he owns four cows and two oxen, which makes him a relatively wealthy man.